Survivors of Tofino whale-watching incident sue tour company

German brothers accuse Jamie's Whaling Station of negligence after Leviathan II capsized last fall, leaving six dead

The Leviathan II capsized off Vargas Island near Tofino on Oct. 25

The Leviathan II capsized off Vargas Island near Tofino on Oct. 25

Two passengers who survived a whale-watching boat capsizing off the coast of Tofino last fall, killing six people, have filed a potential class-action lawsuit against the tour company, alleging negligence.

The documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week provide new details on the devastating incident that shocked and saddened the coastal community known for its whale-watching industry.

Christian and Dirk Barchfield say they had been on vacation last fall when they booked a whale-watching tour on Oct. 25 with Jamie’s Whaling Station.

The two brothers from Germany allege Wayne Dolby, the captain, and two other crew members aboard the Leviathan II told the 24 passengers where the life-jackets were located and how to put them on, but that they were not required to wear them.

The Barchfields claim the sea was calm enough at the start, but high waves began to crest as the vessel reached open water.

The group caught sight of some whales going by and observed for about 45 minutes before the Barchfields allege the captain decided to navigate to a different location and the boat again moved into rough water with waves more than two metres high.

“At no point were the Plaintiffs or other passengers on the open deck advised by the defendant Dolby or other crew members to either put on life jackets or to keep them easily accessible.”

Christian Barchfield claims he “watched the high waves crashing against the window and felt very uncomfortable and afraid,” while his brother alleges the crew did not demonstrate any concern about the sea conditions.

At this point, the brothers claim the vessel “tipped violently to the left and capsized.”

Dirk Barchfield claims he clung to a life ring with several other passengers while being hit by the high waves, while Christian was trapped in the lower, indoor deck, being “thrown about as though he were in a washing machine.”

Eventually, a fishing boat arrived and two men from the Ahousaht First Nation called in other boats and helped pull the survivors out of the water.

The brothers were hospitalized and treated for cuts, bruises, scratches, hypothermia and severe shock.

Six people did not survive, all from Britain, including an 18-year-old boy who’d been celebrating his birthday on a family trip.

The Barchfields are seeking general, special and punitive damages, accusing the defendants of negligence because they knew or ought to have known it was unsafe to go out in those conditions.

None of the allegations has been tested in court and a statement of defence has not been filed.

At the time of the capsizing, tour company owner Jamie Bray said the boat had made that trip all the time and that Dolby had 20 year’ experience, with the crew going through safety drills every two weeks.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A donated towel warms a merlin chick. Photo supplied
MARS Moment: 2021 shaping up to be a record-setting year for animal rescues

Submitted by Jane Sproull Thomson Special to Black Press With the pandemic,… Continue reading

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
19 Wing Comox crew involved in three-tonne cocaine seizure worth more than $3 million

12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron involved in Op Caribbe

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Volunteers sort through bottles and cans during Saturday's fundraiser for hospice. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley hospice holds drive-through bottle drive

Bike team is fundraising for the annual Cycle of Life tour on Vancouver Island

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Most Read